Remember I had a fight with my Mom?
It's pretty much over.
If by over you mean that you have decided that this is not a battle that you are well enough equipped to fight and you have just given up, then it's pretty much over. We talked a week after the fight and it all boiled down to this: she is not willing to let go of my past indescretions yet, and there is nothing I can do about it.
And I am not even going to mention that when I got pregnant she said some incredibly hurtful and terrible things that hurt not only me but my unborn innocent child - and I have forgiven her and moved on.
Nope. Not even going to mention it.
BUT I DIGRESS......
Something happened the other night that drew my Mom and I together for a brief and shining moment.
I was watching Tom Brokaw interview Art Buchwald (go here and read this, it is wonderful and very meaningful to my post.....please....).
Some strange things occurred to me during this interview, one being that I NEVER watch the news anymore so why was I watching now? And another being how I personally knew of a story as amazing as this. This man was living the same end-of-life scenario that my Dad did.
As I mentioned awhile ago, my father passed away from esophageal cancer. This was only three years ago, but is very fresh in my mind. He was diagnosed in January and passed away in October. It happened so fast.
The girls and I were lucky enough to be able to spend the summer back in Montana with the family. Dad and I loaded the kids up in the truck many days and 4x'd into the mountains, searching for cool rocks. My Dad and I loved rocks. He got me a rock hammer for my birthday once. We would drive and talk and laugh.....and live.
It was some of the best time spent with my Dad in my life.
He got sicker and sicker over the summer. I had to go back to Washington in September to get Maya started in Kindergarten. I flew back every few weekends. At this point he had to make a choice whether to continue eating and encourage growth in the tumor or just get IV fluids and basically starve to death.
He chose the latter.
I can't imagine having to make that kind of choice.
He wasted away from a big Norwegian ranching man to a thin and frail shell, yellowing with jaundice. It was horrific. He was so thin that his eyes seemed to bulge out- he always looked scared to me when he go to this point.
He was wise enough that he got in the truck again on one of my weekends that I was visiting, and made me drive to a favorite spot by the river. We parked and watched the incredible colors of the willow and cottonwood trees reflect off the river that mirrored the perfect blue September sky.
I looked at him and sobbed and finally......finally......asked all the questions that I had been holding back.
"Are you hungry?"
"Does it bother you when people eat and drink in front of you?"
"Are you scared? You look scared."
"Does it hurt?"
"Do you believe in God?"
"Is there anything I can do?"
And he answered every one of them. Honestly. And even with some humor.
I won't tell you what his answers were. I just remember being so relieved that I knew -everything that I wanted to know.
In the next few weeks I saw his friends - fellow ranchers, past employees, high school buddies - come to visit. They would sit across from his big reclining chair in the living room, and these big tough men would look at him and cry. And ask him their own questions, and tell him stories of their experiences that he influenced.
And it was agonizing.
And I knew why they did it.
He lived his life his way. And he left it that way too. The cancer got him, but first he took it by the throat and made it wait until he was done.
When I told my Mom all this she cried. It made me think of her as his wife and not my Mom. She didn't get to talk to him like I did. He wouldn't share with her these things for some reason. And I feel sorry for her for it. I will never understand their relationship as a couple. But I do understand that in the end my Mom felt left out. But she also took care of him until it was all over.
A year before this she lost her own mother to a stroke, and in June of the year that my Dad was also sick, her sister Diana died of breast cancer.
She never seemed to flinch so I think we all assumed she was okay. She had been an RN her whole life and just seemed to accept the death that surrounded her. But sometimes the ability to put on a good face saves you from pain up front, but drags it out interminably later.
That was too much for one person. And I am here to say - as the daughter that was the shithead and the one who fights with her on the phone - that she did a beautiful and dignified job of taking care of my Dad. She quietly held it all together through some of the most outrageous loss I can even imagine and held her head up high.
I know that she still feels that pain. I know when I hear that horrible sad silence on the other side of the phone.
I knew when I walked into her room on the day of the funeral and she was standing at her closet just staring in and crying, almost totally breaking down until I took over and picked out her clothes and jewelry.
And I forgive her.
I thank my Dad for giving me the secret to a happy life. It is this:
Live like you will have time to die. Because if you are granted that time and you have lived right, your friends will be there. They will cry and tell you stories and laugh.
And you will see what you did while you were here.